Ways to Use Facebook to Market an Auto Body Shop

Recent posts on this blog have spoken about SEM and Geo Marketing with Google. Because of their ability to connect businesses with consumers so efficiently, we believe they are the most suitable approach for marketing an auto body shop on the Internet. There is another area that is effective in connecting businesses with consumers: social websites. This article will focus primarily on a strategy for social marketing, with emphasis on Facebook.

Still a relatively young company, Facebook has become so popular, they are projected to take Google's place as the most dominant website on the Internet sometime soon. In other words, Facebook is not just the new trendy thing among teenagers. Businesses should get used to them being around and should take notice that it has 500 million users. Facebook has done a great job maturing from a social networking site built for college students to a website with the capabilities of connecting a business to its local area customers. If you don't already know what it does, here's a quick re-cap. Facebook allows its users to create personal profile pages, giving them the freedom to list their interests, employment information, adding and sharing photos, while providing them a tool to update their profile status. The means of connecting people together is by becoming "friends" with other people on the website. This creates the connection point between all its users and the status update per profile gives users the chance to shares with all their friends what they are doing at any particular moment. Businesses are able to do this exact same thing. By creating a page for your business, you are able to list important information (a bio, geographical location, services provided), post and share pictures, and, through the status updates, communicate with your friends.

The key feature about Facebook that's beneficial for auto body shops is 1) its ability to connect shops with previous customers and potential new customers, and 2) its ability to provide an online space for those customers to refer your business. Nothing replaces the significance of personal referrals from previous customers to potential new ones as a marketing strategy. No new online gizmo will come close to that strategy's strength. Tons of shops still use only that method and do quite well. But Facebook has 500 million active users and 50% of those users are messing around on Facebook per day. There's no data available to suggest this, but there's an incredibly good chance that the people in your communities are among those users. So if they're willing to recommend your business offline, then its okay to assume that they'll be willing to recommend your business online. That's the whole idea behind this particular Facebook marketing strategy for auto body shops.

The first thing that you would want to do is create a business page on Facebook. Tony Bradley over at PCWorld.com has a good article on how to get a Facebook page started for businesses. You'll need a personal page to get one started, so if you don't have one, you'll need to do that. Once created, do what you wish with it: write a bio, establish your geographical location, put up pictures, etc. As you're putting the page together, ask yourself, "What do I want my customers to know and see?" That should be a good guide as you move along.

After you feel comfortable with the way your page looks, its time to begin adding friends. This is the connection point between the business and the customer and it will take continual work over a period of time. Facebook will provide you with some techniques on ways to add friends. I recommend you consider those ideas. Some of those include, posting status updates, promoting the page on your website and suggesting friends you already have to friend the business. Another important thought to consider is your offline efforts to promote your page. This is a big takeaway from these thoughts: make sure every customer you have is informed that you have a Facebook page and they are invited to become your friends. Let every customer that has received your services know about your page. After the services are complete, you can simply say to them, "Hey, if you liked our services, become friends with us on Facebook." You can also do a number of non-verbal communications with them. Take the words "Follow Us On Facebook" and put it everywhere you can think of that your customer sees. Put it on invoices. Put it on email signatures with links back to the Facebook page. Post it on your site as Facebook suggests. Put it on business cards the next time you order a set. Provide customers with satisfaction surveys with an invitation at the end of it to be friends. Put it everywhere they see! And if your customer had a good experience with your services, and assuming they have a Facebook account, then there's a good chance they'll become your friend.  They're able to suggest friends themselves.  So just in the same way that a person can recommend your business through "word of mouth" by simply telling others, they're able to digitally recommend your business page by the "suggesting friends" feature.  This gives that new customer an opportunity to look at what they've been told is a credible business, all with information about it right in front of them: your page, your photos, bio, website, and all the other material that post on your page.

Remember, the goal here is to provide your customers with a new platform to recommend your business to other people in their community. If they'll recommend your business offline, then I believe its safe to assume that they'll recommend your business online. Facebook is the online community space that they'll most likely do it with. Candidly, Facebook is still young. The auto body presence on Facebook is even younger. There's still no systematic, established model for how to effectively use the popular social-networking site for auto body shops with the exception of the one described here. Recent news has been coming out that Facebook will be adding geolocation applications to their program, which hopefully means that they'll consider developing a system to allow local business owners to post advertisements targeted to their communities. That's still undeveloped, however, and unlikely to be here anytime soon. But it would be an absolute travesty if any business owner assumes that there is no value to Facebook in empowering their business with more revenue. Give it a try and let us know how it works!  


JR Seidel can be reached at jr@web-est.com.